Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Jurors on Friday found Morgan Quarles not guilty of first-degree murder, rejecting the testimony of a witness who identified him as the gunman who fatally shot a 25-year-old woman in 2017.
Jurors also found Quarles, 26, not guilty of first-degree felony murder and second-degree murder in the June 28, 2017, shooting death of Jannet Medina outside a house near Second and Griegos NW.
Testifying in his own defense this week, Quarles denied shooting Medina. Defense attorneys argued another man shot Medina.
Quarles told jurors he was frightened by the sound of gunfire and was walking away from the house when someone shot the woman. He did not identify the shooter.
Quarles’ version contradicts the testimony of a witness who identified Quarles as the man she saw shoot Medina.
Medina was attempting to flee a house in the 100 block of Hilton NW just moments after gunfire erupted inside, seriously injuring a man who lived there.
Tami Krebbs, a neighbor, told jurors she saw Quarles follow Medina out to the street, demand the keys to a Chevrolet Cruze, then shoot her when she refused to hand them over.
“He grabbed her – her shirt or her arm,” Krebbs told jurors. “He spun her around. He pulled a gun and shot her. She fell in the street like a sack of rocks.”
Prosecutors allege that Quarles and a second man, Gabriel Mariscal, 34, drove to Albuquerque the day of the killing from their hometown of Artesia.
Mariscal and Medina had lived together in Artesia and owned a Chevy Cruze registered in both their names. Medina left Artesia and drove the vehicle to Albuquerque, which angered Mariscal, according to the prosecution.
The day of the killing, Mariscal and Quarles drove to Albuquerque in a pickup to confront Medina and retrieve the Chevy Cruze, Deputy District Attorney Natalie Lyon told jurors.
“Morgan (Quarles) shot Jannet (Medina) because she was holding the keys and wouldn’t give them up,” Lyon said.
But Quarles’ attorney, Nina Safier, said in closing arguments that Mariscal shot and killed Medina.
Mariscal “shot her in a crime of passion,” Safier said. Mariscal had every reason to kill Medina because she angered Mariscal by leaving him and taking his car, she said.
“We’re not saying Tami Krebbs was lying,” Safier said. “She got it wrong. This was not Morgan’s fight.”
Mariscal shot and seriously injured Dominic Sanchez inside the house on Hilton NW. Mariscal pleaded no contest in 2019 to aggravated battery in that shooting and was sentenced to one year in prison, court records show.
Both Sanchez and Medina were shot with a .380-caliber pistol, ballistics tests showed.
Prosecutors told jurors in closings arguments that after Sanchez was shot, Mariscal apparently passed the gun to Quarles, who then used it to shoot Medina.
Safier told jurors that the prosecution’s version of events is “speculative.”
“There is no evidence of a baton-handoff of a .380,” she said.
In his testimony on Wednesday, Quarles told jurors that he waited outside while Mariscal went into the house. He became frightened when he heard gunfire and began walking away. Quarles said he then heard an argument in front of the house followed by a gunshot, but he did not identify the shooter.
“I got in the truck and left,” Quarles said. “I basically ditched Gabe (Mariscal).”